Poetry

Poetry

Spring inventory/Ursuline Mother House/Paola, Kansas

Thanks for this window, three stories up,
and the breeze in the curtains, laundered by the rain,
for the unrolling leaves, green and silver.

Thanks for the red-tile roof and the clean white
cornice, for the blue-gray wings in the eaves,
coming, going, spread cruciform.

Thanks for the quicksilver sky caught
in a bowl, for frogs in the garden,
flip-flap, chitter-chatter trees,

and that one persistent whistler whose
song flies out like line
from a fisherman’s reel.

This is my song, too,
cast out, cast
out.







Intercession

Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air,
here where the currents of the world
stall between mountain ranges.
We awaken inhaling fumes and dust,
the calls of crows, breath and prayers
from around the globe.

A child in church, I knelt with
the congregation, leaned into the wails
of women around me pleading for the son
lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims,
the girl with the iron lung. They would
begin on a pitch around middle C
and slowly rise with arched phrases
into a high tremolo toward the amen,
as though reaching to heaven.

Now the sun tears
the gray veil, and doves repeat
their soft, low moaning, for heaven
is nearer than we think—in the undersides
of leaves and in their shine,
warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread.
Even in that sick, black night when a man
stood in the center of the lane, his arms
out, pleading for the headlights to come in,
as we stood beside him, now in a silent
heap, his boots flung off, as we
breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”







Now we see . . . darkly

Sometimes, at end of day, but not of care,
Mozart or Beethoven our aural food,
Her hand reaches into empty air,
A tactile search for something understood;
This is a nurse’s hand, a hand that heals,
And yet, the reaching gives no hint of sense,
No hint revealing what it is she feels,
But still, incarnate eloquence.
Perhaps it is within these vacancies
That meaning lies. Or in the mystery
Surrounding us in health, and in disease.
Perhaps Alzheimer’s gives epiphany.
She reaches her hand into the empty air;
Who dares to say that there was nothing there?



Bell

      Good Friday, 2004

Since time flies one way like an arrow,
the sugar can’t be stirred out of your oatmeal
and no matter how long the murderer sobs
on the median strip—sorry!—he can’t reverse
his swerve, cannot rescind his drink

before the crash. Like him, was Jesus heartsick
to find history’s not a zipper running both ways?
He who loved eternity—its roominess,
its reversibility—as he grew up, did he
have to learn he never could unsay a thing

he’d said? And yet today, like all Good Fridays,
He hangs on the cross again. On altars
he hangs. On necklaces. His death is like an x
that rides the wheels of time to come again
in ritual, that miniature eternity, that spring

re-sprung. Dear God, there in your big eternity,
remember that your hands and feet can never
be unscarred again. Hear these words spoken
by a body that suffers, by a tongue
that will stiffen soon and be gone.

Have mercy on us who love time.
May this prayer be a tire
that rolls over every inch of the way
to find You. May it be a bell
which can never be unrung.









Anniversary

Did the blessed mother note the measure of the moon?
Ancient church tradition says they came on the same day—
that Gabriel’s whispered “hail” shared Golgotha’s dark noon,
that her pain embraced perfection and who are we to say?

It was exquisite sorrow to have her melody become
counterpoint to her son’s words arduously spoken
that afternoon of agony; below she stood mute, numb,
to watch his body slowly punctured, torn and broken.

How did she ponder and how could her heart sustain
a moment of astonishment, an anniversary gloss,
now—forlorn as vinegar; bitter balm for pain.
But she would hold to his wine, hard-won from torture, loss,

his new wine of forgiveness, now soaking into sod;
trusting it could endow her to forgive even her God.